When the Prime Minister speaks The Man from Madras Musings listens. This is of course partly out of patriotism. It is also partly out of what arose from an earlier speech on a particular night at 8.00 pm after which MMM found everyone he knew standing in queues for exchanging rupee notes. So each time there is a prime-ministerial broadcast, MMM stands to attention and hangs on to every word. He likes to be ahead in queues.
This time of course it was with different feelings that MMM listened. The first speech for a day’s token lockdown MMM realised was a forerunner for something bigger, a mere dress rehearsal as it were. His good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed was even more proactive. This is when we needed to buy some essentials so that we were prepared for a long blockade she decided and sailed out to shop. MMM’s good lady is no hoarder and so when she returned it was with a small set of important items without which chez MMM cannot get by, and no, in case you were wondering, rolls of toilet paper are not essential commodities in the MMM household. But she did come back with horror stories of men and women who were foraging as though there was no tomorrow. She had even seen a man stocking up on locks – you know the kind that have tumblers and levers. Seeing her incredulous look, he had explained that these would come in handy. He expected the law and order situation to collapse he said and so he felt he needed to be protected.
People are made differently was all that MMM could say when his good lady returned and related all these tales that MMM found, to quote the bard, wondrous, pitiful and passing strange. But what transpired thereafter was even more surprising, enough to make the twenty hairs or so left on MMM’s head stand on end like quills on a fretful porpentine. The PM if you recollect said people had to stand in their balconies and on rooftops and clap to express gratitude to the millions of frontline workers in the war against the virus. MMM fully agreed with the sentiment though he did not think exhorting people to stand on balconies to cheer was such a good idea. Sure enough, most converted it into a kind of social outing. In India, zeal and deification can go to all kinds if limits. But that was not at all. In the midst of all the chaos, the shutting down and the fear, one politician managed to print posters thanking all doctors and with a photo of himself thrown in prominently of course. These were pasted all around MMM’s area.
It made MMM wonder as to how this man found a printer who was willing to keep his outfit open during the lockdown, get the workforce needed to execute the order, not to speak of a designer, however bad the layout. And then once the printing was done, he could also locate people to do the pasting, with glue and then spraying the sheets all over with cow dung and water – not as a cure for COVID but to ensure that the posters are not chewed up by the cows. Did you know this trade secret by the way? No? True. All posters in Tamil Nadu are after pasting given this treatment. Apparently, cows don’t consider their urine and dung to be therapeutic. It’s only the humans who do so!
A week or so after this, the PM was back, asking us to light lamps. This led to some people bursting crackers as well. But MMM will not go into all that, especially the question as to where fireworks could be bought during a lockdown.